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Linux Mint and Ubuntu are both known as two of the most newbie-friendly distros around. Ubuntu is the most popular — so much so that Linux Mint is based on it. But there are real differences between the two. Which one is right for you?

Background

Ubuntu began in 2004 when millionaire Mark Shuttleworth founded Canonical. The first release was version 4.10, referring to October 2004. A new one becomes available for download every six months. Each fourth version serves as an LTS (long-term support) release; Ubuntu 16.04 LTS launched in April 2016 10 Ways to Make Ubuntu 16.04 Feel Like Home 10 Ways to Make Ubuntu 16.04 Feel Like Home Ubuntu 16.04 is an LTS release, so you get five years of updates, and not have to worry about installing a new version for a while. But what do you do once you've installed Ubuntu... Read More .

For the first six years of the project, Ubuntu’s tagline was “Linux for Human Beings.” While Canonical has changed the branding, Ubuntu remains a distribution aimed at new users 6 Big Reasons to Upgrade to Ubuntu 16.04 6 Big Reasons to Upgrade to Ubuntu 16.04 A new LTS release of Ubuntu means security and stability. Whether you're upgrading or switching from Windows, let's take a look at what's new in Ubuntu 16.04 Xenial Xerus. Read More .

UbuntuVsLinuxMint-Unity

Linux Mint first hit the scene in 2006. The distro is built on top of Ubuntu but takes extra steps to remove obstacles for newcomers. One key distinction from most other distros is the inclusion of Flash and proprietary codecs out of the box. This will change with the upcoming release, version 18. Then users will have to download codecs during or after installation.

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While the numbers are different, Linux Mint releases typically come a few months after each Ubuntu version. Starting with 17, every LTS marks a new version number, with the three subsequent releases being x.1, x.2, and x.3.

System Requirements

Ubuntu:

512MB RAM (2GB recommended)
5GB of disk space (25GB recommended)
1024 x 768 screen resolution

Linux Mint:

512MB Ram (1GB recommended)
9GB of disk space (20GB recommended)
800 x 600 screen resolution (1024 x 768 recommended)

Both need a DVD drive or USB port for installation.

Ubuntu and Linux Mint have similar system requirements. The biggest impact on resources comes from which desktop environment you choose and the software you install.

Installation

Ubuntu and Linux Mint both use the Ubiquity installer. This means if you can figure out how to install one, you know how to install the other. The experience isn’t identical, but it’s close.

UbuntuVsLinuxMint-Installer

That’s not to say that Ubuntu and Linux Mint support identical hardware. That can change depending on which version of the Linux kernel each comes with. Other software decisions can affect what runs where. Ubuntu has more resources and users to point out problems, so you might find better support there. Your mileage may vary.

Linux Mint and Ubuntu both support UEFI. Linux Mint is not certified by Microsoft, so disable Secure Boot before attempting installation. With Ubuntu, you can leave Secure Boot enabled.

Interface

Most distros default to one of the standard Linux desktop environments. Both Ubuntu and Linux Mint develop their own.

Ubuntu uses the Unity interface 3 Dead-Wrong, Yet Common Complaints About Unity & Ubuntu 3 Dead-Wrong, Yet Common Complaints About Unity & Ubuntu Do you hate Ubuntu's new interface, Unity? Do you think Ubuntu is making a huge mistake by changing things, and will inevitably crash and burn because of this? There are good reasons to dislike Unity... Read More . This is a GNOME-based desktop environment common only to Ubuntu. A global menu and notification area occupy a panel across the top, and applications live in a dock along the side. You launch software from the Dash, the dashboard that appears when you click the Ubuntu icon.

Linux Mint’s Cinnamon desktop is an alternative to GNOME 3, born before the latter won over the hearts of many long-time Linux users 5 Surprising Reasons Behind The GNOME Resurgence 5 Surprising Reasons Behind The GNOME Resurgence Today, GNOME 3 is finally regaining users, and there are less people who go online to voice their hatred for the desktop environment. What happened to make GNOME slowly come back? Read More . Cinnamon provides a familiar feel for people moving over from Windows or a Chromebook. Applications appear in the panel along the bottom, with a launcher menu in the bottom left and system icons on the right.

Linux Mint 18 marks the debut of Cinnamon 3.0. You can get an overview of new features in the video below.

Both Ubuntu and Linux Mint come with their own user themes. Ubuntu has Radiance and Ambiance, while Linux has Mint-Y, a new look based on the Arc theme and Moka icons.

UbuntuVsLinuxMint-Mint-Y

Unity may feel more familiar to Mac OS X users, while Linux Mint makes for an easy transition for Windows users.

Software

Ubuntu has its own interface Ubuntu 11.04 Unity - A Big Leap Forward For Linux Ubuntu 11.04 Unity - A Big Leap Forward For Linux It's here. The newest version of Ubuntu sports an entirely new user interface: Unity. It also includes a much-improved Software Center, alongside the usual updates for the thousands of free programs Ubuntu offers. Canonical decided... Read More , a new package format How Ubuntu 16.04's New Package Format Makes Installing Software A Snap How Ubuntu 16.04's New Package Format Makes Installing Software A Snap In version 16.04, Ubuntu is hoping to strike a balance between having stability and staying up-to-date, with a new way to install apps. Let's find out how "snaps" work. Read More , an upcoming display server, and other infrastructure. But it doesn’t come with many exclusive apps. One holdout, the Ubuntu Software Center, went away in the latest release. Now Ubuntu uses GNOME Software alongside many other GNOME apps. When software doesn’t fit in with the Unity interface, Canonical makes patches to ease the situation.

In response to the same issue, Linux Mint is introducing X-Apps. These are generic applications aimed at traditional GTK desktop environments. They continue to use titlebars and menubars, elements the GNOME desktop has phased out for GNOME 3.x. The screenshot below shows Xviewer, an alternative image viewer to Eye of GNOME.

UbuntuVsLinuxMint-Xviewer

The team develops many apps specifically for Linux Mint. The distro has its own package manager, backup tool, upload manager, and others.

In either case, you will be able to continue using the vast majority of the open source software you know and love.

Official Spins

There are ten versions of Ubuntu listed on the distro’s website. Besides the Unity desktop, you have alternative “flavors” that default to GNOME, KDE, LXDE, XFCE, MATE, and MythTV. There are also specialized distributions, such as Edubuntu for education, Ubuntu Studio for multimedia producers, and Ubuntu Kylin for Chinese users.

Linux Mint has four main options. There’s Cinnamon, MATE, KDE, and XFCE. 17.3 has two versions, one with and without codecs, but this will change with version 18. There are also OEM images that manufacturers can use to pre-instal Mint.

Both distros let you set up your own desktop environments, but if you want to experiment with a bunch without configuring things yourself, Ubuntu is the way to go.

Ubuntu vs. Linux Mint: Which Will You Choose?

Ubuntu is the more well-known of the two distros, but Linux Mint is also one of the most popular out there. Both provide users with a great introduction to Linux. More Ubuntu-related web content exists due to the size of its community, which is a big help when you’re starting off. But much of what applies to Ubuntu also applies to Mint.

So, the choice is yours. Which distro do you prefer? If you have experience with either one, you’re welcome to tell your story in the comments.

  1. Simon
    December 6, 2016 at 9:26 am

    I've been using ubuntu variations since 2009, starting with Gnome, but then Unity came out and could only live with it after lots of tweaking so I started looking for alternatives and came across Kubuntu.

    Kubuntu is a variation of ubuntu packaged with the KDE "desktop environment" and a slightly different suite of applications, and loved it from the start. It worked well out of the box but also provides a very comprehensive array of config settings and I'm convinced that Kubuntu provides better applications out of the box compared to ubuntu (e.g. file manager and terminal have more features, and a wider range of desktop widgets).

    However, there have always been occasional application crashes and some difficulty with graphics drivers, wifi cards and multi-display setups so I thought I'd try Mint 18 and so far, I have found it to be more stable, and less resource hungry. In terms of user experience, I tried the "Mate" desktop environment with Mint but didn't think it was anything special so I've gone back to using the tried and tested KDE environment with Mint. (The only application I missed is Kubuntu's terminal application "konsole" but then I've been able to install this separately).

    In summary: Kubuntu is very impressive and got me hooked and even converted my not so tech savvy wife to move away from Windows, but Mint + KDE is probably now my distro of choice. But they're all free so play around and embrace the command line.

  2. XAV
    November 14, 2016 at 12:14 am

    Fedora wins this comparison! ;)

    • Paul Anderson
      December 8, 2016 at 12:44 pm

      How childish. Just because your preferred distribution is Fedora doesn't mean you have to make such pointless comments.

  3. makesmemad@att.net
    October 1, 2016 at 5:54 pm

    I've used Windows for years and nothing else. I can't make sense out of your explanations. All those names and abbreviations are like sifting shaff. It doesn't inform. So eliminate the blah-blah and talk plain English. Thank you.

  4. Danno
    September 17, 2016 at 12:42 am

    I can't make a comment about Ubuntu, as I don't have any experience (directly) with it. But, I must say that Linux Mint has been a good OS to work with. I've spent several years getting to know it (from ver. 14), first running it in a virtual environment, then dual booting with Windows as my primary OS, and now running strictly Linux Mint 17.3 (OK....I still have my Windows partition running occasionally within VirtualBox for iTunes, Garmin updates, and a few other things).

    I think that no matter which Linux distro you choose, anyone transitioning from Windows will have some sort of learning curve with Linux (terminal environment, proprietary drivers when open-source versions won't work, etc). Even though the article mentions the Ubuntu community is bigger, there are many sites/resources available for Linux Mint that help you maximize productivity. The "Windows List with App Grouping" applet, for example, lets the Linux Mint panel behave very similarly to the taskbar in Windows 7 with Aero effects (thumbnail preview, etc).

  5. Kevin
    August 17, 2016 at 3:46 am

    Used Ubuntu since version 12.04 - every time with new updates, video card broke on my machine Dell XPS 210 and need to reinstall many time - until Ubuntu 16.04 works fine for awhile and then got new issue, log on and got blank screen.

  6. Firefly
    August 11, 2016 at 4:55 pm

    I think Unity is very efficient tool to use the computer as a whole. After using it for the last couple of years, I'm so used to +type_whatever_you_want that I can't get back to any menu, point and click interface. Now I use less mouse and more the keyboard - which improves my productivity.

    I don't really agree that Unity is difficult, maybe it is unintuitive for people coming from "menu" worlds like Windows, but as a separate entity - it is very user friendly and easy to use. All you need to do is to hit the Ubuntu button and type whatever you want to open: an application, a file, or pick one of the last used items.

  7. Ray Trygstad
    August 6, 2016 at 5:30 pm

    Interesting. This is what many of us see in discussions like this, and hear from users and administrators all the time: an almost universal dislike for Unity. Despite people citing similarity to OS X, users find it nowhere near as user-friendly as a Mac. First-time users are often completely lost in Unity, as almost everything about it is non-obvious. I believe the quest for a "new and different" GUI significantly different from commercially produced GUIs has blinded many folks to fundamental usability issues. The Mint developers, in my opinion and in that of many of my students, have paid far more attention to "out-of-the-box" usability.

  8. Rich
    June 29, 2016 at 6:40 pm

    I have been messing with linux for the last 10-15 yrs. Started with Redhat and couldn't make heads or tails of it at first. Fastfoward a couple of years and I starting messing with Ubuntu. Loved it ...until Unity. I made myself use it for two months thinking I would get used to it. Never did. I saw a few screenshots on Mint 10 Kde and I really liked the look of it. So I ditched Unity and been a big mint kde fan ever since. I recently installed mint cinnamon on a virtualbox machine on my window gaming pc and really like it as well. Having messed with dozens of different distro's over the years, my humble opinion is Mint is the most user friendly distro for beginners. It just plain works. Two thumbs up for Mint!!!!

    • Satya
      August 7, 2016 at 12:52 pm

      Yes, I also started disliking Ubuntu after Unity.

  9. Jibesh Shrestha
    June 23, 2016 at 5:29 pm

    I am fairly new to the huge world of Linux platform, however i think the selection between these two distributions depends on type of user itself. Leaving the technical details like both coming from Debian family and all, User experience is what distinguishes each other. Ubuntu with unity provides its own unique look and feel, sometimes even overwhelming specially to new users,the software distribution and packaging (even though getting simpler and simpler now a days) can also prove to be a bit confusing at the beginning(once again for newbies like me - migrating from windows), How ever a great distribution with huge support community.

    On the other hand Linux Mint provides more of a out of the box feeling, default installation provides many tools and utilities pre-installed, easier to get used to Linux platform. The cinnamon environment of Mint provides a simple windows like interface, making it easier to get used to.

    In the end, the distributions (at-least for me) are pretty much same with different faces, and the selection goes to the type of user itself. How ever i would recommend Mint to begin Linux journey and once comfortable, one can move to Ubuntu(my favorite distribution) , or stick with Mint or even try out from so many other.

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      June 24, 2016 at 3:42 am

      Good observation and recommendation.

    • LouxouLovesElephants
      November 18, 2016 at 7:12 pm

      Thank you. That was the comment i was searching for.
      I don't know if you're good or what, but i'll trust you. And for my own experience with both distributions, i agree even if Ubuntu isn't that hard for starters.
      Now let's grab an iso for this hungry new computer ! hagl

    • Mbuodile Obiosio
      November 21, 2016 at 10:44 pm

      This is the kind of comment I was scrolling all the way down to find. Why would I want Windows feature on Linux?. Why did I move out of Windows in the first place?. It's like using Windows Mobile launcher on an Android device. That's completely absurd. Unity, for me is a perfect shot at UNIQUENESS.
      I love Ubuntu and I stick to it.

  10. brashley46
    June 19, 2016 at 5:33 pm

    I am running Xubuntu 16.04 on my desktop and LinuxMint 17, MATE edition, on my old EeePC netbook. I like them both, each in its place; but I am getting worried about the new packaging system Ubuntu in going to introduce ... removing the maintainer interface between the package developer and the user is removing a layer of security. SO I am thinking of switching to a distro that won't do that to me. I depend on the distro maintainers to filter software for malware, whether intentional or unintentional.

  11. LazyT
    June 19, 2016 at 1:06 pm

    I like both but prefer Linux Mint. I do my administration from the GUI and like a minimal amount of it. Linux Mint "just works" (Details below).

    My netbook runs Ubuntu Mate (Because of performance) and has a daily popup error message which I click to send the error information. When I shut it down there is always some background thing still running I need to force closed. I mention this not to complain but only to point out part of my preference for Mint is: I like a predictable, minimalist UI but find popups, error messages and glitches far uglier than subtle aesthetics. I know I could go find the information then fix what's wrong, but, don't want to bother.

  12. ZenTiac
    June 19, 2016 at 2:41 am

    I also was a Ubuntu uses from the start and finally got it working properly in 2009. Before then it was a work in progress. When Unity was release Hell froze over and I was annoyed,as it seemed almost impossible to navigate. So I turned to LinuxMint and I have been using LinuxMint ever since. The latest Ubuntu 16.04 and LinuxMint 18 do work well and still support installing proprietary drivers. However they both do not support FGLRX that is AMD/ATI Video drivers as AMD have not made a compatible driver to work with Mesa 1.8 yet. Mesa is an open source driver always present in both distros. So if you use Steam the gaming platform and have a Nvidia Graphics card then it is safe to use Ubuntu 16.04 or LinuxMint 18. If you use Steam and have an AMD/ATI graphics card then you should use Ubuntu 15 or LinuxMint 17.3 until AMD release the Crimson drivers that will fix this issue later in the year.

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      June 19, 2016 at 7:35 am

      This is good to know. Many Ubuntu and Linux Mint users are gamers.

  13. Phil Hord
    June 18, 2016 at 6:20 pm

    Ubuntu was fine until The Dash came along in Unity. Since then I struggled with it and finally gave it up for Mint. Mint solved several problems I had at the time with network manager guis and the like. It has always been rather compatible with my laptop. But recently I installed on a new laptop and had trouble with the Mint 16 image. So I tried Ubuntu Gnome again, and I find it's quite usable now.

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      June 19, 2016 at 7:37 am

      I'm also a fan of the latest versions of GNOME.

  14. Richard Guilcher
    June 18, 2016 at 4:39 pm

    like FCD76218 i prefer pclinuxos

    • WellTech Telecommunications
      June 19, 2016 at 8:59 pm

      Same here. I also like Peppermint. Works well with old computers with limited resources.

  15. DaveJ
    June 18, 2016 at 12:08 pm

    Having been a long-time Windows user, I decided to try Linux. I went for Ubunti. Installation was easy and all seemed well until I came to use the software. Everything seems to revolve around Unity Dash and it just wouldn't work for me. Click the button and my video went crazy. I spent three days trying to sort it.
    Being fairly pc savvy I tried the user base but couldn't find anything. Played with video modes but guess what - as far as I can see you need Unity Dash to open Terminal.
    Totally frustrated I turned to Linux Mint. Popped the DVD in my drive, everything installed first time and I've been happily using Mint ever since.
    Long live Mint

    • Danny
      June 18, 2016 at 6:36 pm

      Ctrl+Alt+T opens the terminal.

    • Mbuodile Obiosio
      November 21, 2016 at 10:46 pm

      Install Classic Menu Indicator

  16. Greg
    June 18, 2016 at 10:07 am

    I'm not that smart when it comes to linux. I've tried so many flavors of linux, but only do some basic coding. I hate Unity. I have used Mint and it works well. But I have been using Zorin for several years, and have installed it on pc's for people who had XP and didn't want a new Windows OS. Easy to use, my wireless HP printer works fine. For most people Mint or Zorin will do more than they ever need.

  17. Larry Wong
    June 18, 2016 at 7:18 am

    Was with Ubuntu until they introduced Unity. Found Mint as an alternative. currently running Mint with xFce on two of my machines.

  18. Kenneth Herring
    June 18, 2016 at 3:54 am

    When I started out with Linux many years ago, I was a die hard Ubuntu user until Unity came along. So looking for an alternative I switched to Mint and I haven't looked back. When Cinnamon became part of Mint, the whole experience became so much better.

  19. Jaden Peterson
    June 18, 2016 at 3:04 am

    What I like about Linux Mint is that it doesn't give a sh** about "only open source" software, and has some proprietary codecs, drivers, and software bundled in. I like open source better, but when it comes to the user experience, I don't mind using proprietary software to achieve a great experience.

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      June 19, 2016 at 10:50 am

      This is an upside to having options. I personally prefer to only use open source software, so I've never seen much reason to try Mint. But it's a great distro for people who would prefer for music and video to just work.

  20. fcd76218
    June 17, 2016 at 11:31 pm

    Between the two, I chose PCLinuxOS because I do not like anything Ubuntu-based. I want to setup my system the way I like, not the way St. Mark and St. Clement decree I should have it set up. PCLinuxOS is just as beginner friendly as Ubuntu and Mint. The problem is, it is not pushed nearly as hard by pundits and tech writers.

    • Bertel King, Jr.
      June 19, 2016 at 11:30 am

      I also prefer not to use Ubuntu-based distros. I have no problem writing about them, but they're not where I feel most comfortable.

  21. Jack
    June 17, 2016 at 10:01 pm

    I am in the early stages of telling Gates & co. to go pound sand, so I'm nowhere near being a Linux expert. I've been playing around with Ubuntu, Mint and Zorin. I'm quite impressed with Zorin, though it doesn't seem to have the user base that the other two have.

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